Jean Cocteau’s lover Jean Marais plays the role of both the beast and Belle’s human love interest Avenant. Cocteau added a subplot to the French fairy tale involving Belle’s male suitor (Avenant) who decides with the conspiring help of Belle’s sisters, to kill the beast and steal his riches. Cocteau’s version of the fairy tale would heavily inspire the Disney animated version of the film.
Beauty and the Beast is the most linear in structure of Jean Cocteau’s films. This can be obviously attributed to the fact that Cocteau adapted the film from a French fairly tale. Of course, Cocteau creates a film that is just as spectacular as his other masterpieces. Cocteau’s auteur signatures are immediately identifiable when the Beast's castle is first shown. Cocteau’s surrealist dream worlds are ones of inviting atmosphere and perfection. It can be only assumed that his opium addiction influenced his knack from atmospheric sedation.
Beauty and the Beast was filmed soon after the American liberation of France. This caused for various problems during the films production as explained in Jean Cocteau’s diary of the film. It is amazing that a director could create (with the help of others of course) such a beautiful film under such harsh conditions. The average Hollywood director would have a yeast infection if they received regular coffee when asking for decaf.
The universal themes of fairy tales are losing their power with each generation as the human race heads for another dark age. Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast perfectly updates (still relevant today) the fairy tale for the times of conspiracy and deception. You won’t find any truth in Hollywood unless you skin the beast that operates it alive. Contemporary directors need to spend more time studying directors like Jean Cocteau, Carl Th. Dreyer, F.W. Murnau, and Ingmar Bergman. The only thing you will learn from the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Brian De Palma, Robert Rodriguez, and George Lucas is trivial diarrhea hidden beneath the corroded skin of generic stylization.